QUESTION: Joining us now to discuss this and more, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, it’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: President Trump says flatly that Iran was responsible for the attack on those two tankers, and the Pentagon has released this video, which appears to show a Revolutionary Guard crew removing an unexploded mine from the hull of one of the boats. But as Rich reported, Germany’s foreign minister says the video is not enough, and the Japanese owner of one of the ships says that he believes from the crew that it was hit by a flying object, not a mine.
Two questions: How certain are you that Iran was responsible for these attacks, and do you have more evidence that you can share with us?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, it’s unmistakable what happened here. These were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping, on the freedom of navigation, with the clear intent to deny transit through the strait. This was on the Gulf of Oman side of the Strait of Hormuz. There is no doubt. The Intelligence Community has lots of data, lots of evidence. The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world over the past 40 days.
QUESTION: Well, I want to talk to you about that, because last month after the first attack on four commercial ships, President Trump took a very hard line. Here he is:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake, if they do anything. I’m hearing little stories about Iran. If they do anything, they will suffer greatly. We’ll see what happens with Iran.”
But Iran and its surrogates, as you noted, have responded to the President’s maximum pressure campaign with more aggression not less, attacking tankers, firing missiles in Iraq and into Saudi Arabia, and targeting U.S. drones in Yemen and the Persian Gulf. The question, Mr. Secretary: What’s the administration gonna do about it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, remember, Chris, where we took over. We took over with an administration that had allowed Iran to create enormous wealth, build their missile program, a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon system. This is where the Trump administration came in. So we wisely withdrew from the JCPOA and put in place an economic pressure campaign, one that continues. We added a ban on a number of petrochemical companies just this past week.
President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war. We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter this. The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior. I made a number of calls to my colleagues around the world yesterday. I am confident we will have partners that understand this threat.
You have to remember, Chris, too, very little of our crude oil comes through the Gulf these days. China is reliant for over 80 percent of its crude oil. Japan, South Korea, Indonesia – these countries are very dependent on freedom of navigation throughout these straits, and I am confident that when they see the risk, the risk to their own economies and their own people, and the outrageous behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they’ll join us in this.
QUESTION: I want to pursue this question of – you say perhaps more action and perhaps more international action. The Pentagon is reportedly considering sending as many as 6,000 more troops to the area along with warships, war planes, submarines. There’s also been talk about an international coalition to escort commercial ships through the Strait of Hormuz. Are those on the table? And I guess basically, how far is President Trump prepared to go?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, President Trump has been unambiguous. Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. That’s the goal. That’s the objective of our entire campaign with respect to Iran, and to create stability throughout the Middle East as part of that effort.
I don’t want to talk about options that are out there, options that are not there. The President has made it very clear we’re going to achieve this objective. We continuously update options. That’s for the President. We’ve taken a handful of those actions to increase the opportunity to convince Iran that these actions aren’t in their best interest, and it appears to be Iran that wants to continue to escalate this conflict.
QUESTION: But should we assume that the U.S. is going to respond? Because clearly, as I said, despite the maximum pressure, Iran seems to be getting more aggressive not less.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, what you should assume is that we’re going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the straits. This is an international challenge. This is important to the entire globe. The United States is going to make sure that we do – take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, Congress – and we’re talking now both about Republicans and Democrats – appears ready to block an emergency U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which, of course, is one of the major enemies of Iran. If they go ahead and do that, block the U.S. arms sale that the Trump administration wants, what message will that send to the mullahs in Tehran?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’d be most unfortunate. And I think the decision we made to move forward with these arms sales was the right decision. It was an important decision. I think the events of this past week are another piece of that evidence. I think we have 40 years of history. But even these past 40 days demonstrate the malign activity that puts Saudis at risk.
You’ll remember, Chris, just this past week it was an Iranian-backed Houthi effort that flew a missile into an airport in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has the right to defend itself. The United States wants to support our important defense partner in the region, and I think moving forward these arms sales made enormous sense, and we’re going to continue to push forward with them.
QUESTION: Let’s turn to Hong Kong. The chief executive in Hong Kong, appointed by Beijing, has announced that she is suspending – not killing, but suspending a bill of extradition that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to the Chinese mainland. The response from the people in Hong Kong – and there was a massive protest again today – is to protest the measure. Millions of citizens coming into the street. They say that the measure would allow China to crack down on critics.
You have spoken out against this measure, but President Trump has said nothing critical about it. He simply commented about the size of the demonstrations. Is he more concerned about maintaining his relationship with President Xi than he is in defending human rights?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has always been vigorous defender of human rights. He’s going to get the opportunity, I think, to see President Xi in just what’ll be a couple weeks now in Osaka, Japan at the G20 summit. I’m sure this will be among the issues that they discuss.
We have a wide range of very important issues in the way China and the United States interact for an awfully long time under Republican and Democrat presidents. We allowed China to take advantage of us on trade and in other ways. President Trump has pushed back very strongly against them. We see what’s happening, what’s unfolding in Hong Kong. We’re watching the people of Hong Kong speak about the things they value. And we’ll see what CEO Lam’s decision is in the coming days and weeks ahead.
QUESTION: Let’s turn to another subject. There were reports this week that the CIA had turned the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, into a CIA informant before he was murdered in February of 2017. President Trump seemed to tell Kim this week that that kind of thing wouldn’t happen on his watch. Take a look:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my – under my auspices. That’s for sure. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”
As the former head of the CIA before you took this job, and some of these contacts with Kim Jong-nam reportedly happened on your watch, is there something wrong with the U.S. spying on North Korea and even using a family member to do so?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I never comment on intelligence matters in any way, Chris. I think you had me on when I was the CIA director. I’m going to stay with that rule today.
The American people should rest assured the United States is taking all the actions that it needs to take to make sure we understand the risks and threats that are posed by North Korea. And now in my current role, I’m working to achieve a diplomatic outcome that gets the nuclear weapons out of the hands of North Korea.
QUESTION: Just at the risk of pressing this though, I understand you’re not going to say what you’re doing, but the President seemed to imply that there were some kinds of spying on North Korea, as he said, that would not happen under his auspices. And I think a lot of people are asking why not.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re taking all the efforts necessary to make sure we know what’s going on all around the world. That includes every country, Chris.
QUESTION: Well, let’s talk about another country, Russia. The U.S. is reporting today that the U.S. has increased digital incursions into the electrical grid of Russia, in effect, to send a warning: You do cyber attacks on us; we can respond, and we can mess up your infrastructure. President Trump called this report in the New York Times – and I want to get his quote right – a “virtual act of treason.” What can you tell us about the new offensive, and what do you have to say about the New York Times reporting this story?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve had my moments with the New York Times on issues related to protecting American secrets. They called out by name an officer that worked for me, a clandestine officer that worked for me. It was outrageous, it was deeply inconsistent with American values, and it was unnecessary. It was a throwaway. It didn’t add to the storyline one iota. And yet they chose to do that.
I’ve seen the story this morning. I don’t have anything to say about the contents of that. I don’t talk about intelligence matters. But President Trump has been crystal clear during my now two and a half years in the administration: We’re going to do everything we can to prevent any country from interfering in any election in the United States of America. We’ll continue to work hard at that. I’m proud of the work this administration does. I only wish the previous administration had done the same.
QUESTION: Finally, the President created quite a controversy this week then he – when he said that he – he seemed to invite opposition research on his political rivals in the 2020 campaign from foreign governments. Here’s what he had to say:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Somebody comes up and says, ‘Hey, I have information on your opponent.’ Do you call the FBI?”
MR STEPHANOPOULOS: “If it’s coming from Russia you do.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “I’ve seen a lot of things over my life, and I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI, in my whole life. You don’t call the FBI…Life doesn’t work that way.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “The FBI director says that’s what should happen.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “The FBI director is wrong.”
Is accepting oppo research from a foreign government right or wrong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, you asked me not to call any of your questions today ridiculous. You came really close right there. President Trump – President Trump has been very clear. He clarified his remarks later. He made it very clear. Even in his first comments he said, “I’d do both.” He said he’d call the FBI.
QUESTION: He said —
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President —
QUESTION: He said, “Maybe I’d do both.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump has been very clear that he will always make sure that he gets it right for the American people, and I am confident he will do that here as well.
QUESTION: Well, at the risk of getting your ire, the President told Fox and Friends on Friday – and I agree he kind of walked it back —
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, he didn’t walk it back.
QUESTION: Yes, he did. Because he said “maybe” on Thursday; and then on Friday on Fox and Friends he said he’d listen first and then, if the information was bad, that he would take it to the FBI or the attorney general. But he also made it clear to George Stephanopoulos that he did not see this as foreign interference. I want to play a clip of the President’s own words:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “I think you might want to listen. I don’t – there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country – Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent.’ ‘Oh.’ I think I’d want to hear it.”
MR STEPHANOPOULOS: “Do you want that kind of interference in our elections?”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.”
He says it’s not interference; it’s information. The country, sir – and I don’t have to tell you – has a long history dating back from – to George Washington in saying that foreign interference in our elections is unacceptable.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, President Trump believes that too. I have nothing further to add. I came on to talk about foreign policy, and I think the third time you’ve asked me about a Washington piece of silliness to chase down a story that is inconsistent with what I’ve seen President Trump do every single day.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I will leave it there. I think I only asked you twice, but that’s all right. Mr. Secretary, thank you. Thanks for your time, and Happy Father’s Day, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.